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Rogues of K Street: Confessions of a Tea Party Consultant
  • January 10, 2011 : 03:01
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In the February primary for Illinois governor, we were called to open the spigot for Tea Party candidate Adam Andrzejewski eight days before the election. Within 12 hours the blogosphere exploded with pro-Andrzejewski messaging and organizing, a new TV spot was filmed, and mail was designed. I’ve worked on hundreds of campaigns and rarely have I seen one finish with such beauty. Former Polish president Lech Walesa came to Chicago to campaign for Andrzejewski. That same day every potential primary voter in Illinois with a Polish last name received a mailer asking him or her to vote for Andrzejewski.

Jon David and Maura Flynn filmed the Andrzejewski TV spot. David is multi­talented. In addition to being one of the best directors I’ve seen, he took the stage before Sarah Palin at the Nashville Tea Party convention to sing his song "American Heart," which is like Lee Greenwood’s "God Bless the USA" only better. David’s song makes you want to waterboard a terrorist and then fuck a bald eagle. Under a cherry tree, on an American flag blanket. And by the way, his name isn’t really Jon David. He uses a pseudonym because he would lose his job in Hollywood if it were known he uses his free time to play the beautiful intro ballad for Michele Bachmann speeches.

Meanwhile, Hennessy’s Twitter network exploded, as did St. Louis-based blogger Dana Loesch’s, and blogger Michelle Moore’s. Loesch is the sweet Midwestern goth version of Laura Ingraham. At the Conservative Political Action Conference she had a constant stream of such interviewees as Phyllis Schlafly, Ann Coulter, Ken Blackwell and Newt Gingrich. She fits right in, except she doesn’t look like a troll.Moore is one tough gal. Her Twitter bio reads, "Smart Girl Politics Director of Technology & Midwest RC, Political Troublemaker, Spy. Bodybuilder. I’m not mean, you’re just a sissy." Between Hennessy, Loesch, Moore and others—like Jim Hoft and Gina Loudon—they can reach 10,000-plus area activists in seconds. Each of these activists has separate networks of thousands of followers who can light up the state instantly. Add to it our family of friendly websites, and we’re talking nearly 10 million unique visitors a month.

Although he didn’t win the primary, Andrzejewski shot up in those eight days to finish with nearly 15 percent—less than six percentage points off Bill Brady, who won with 20 percent of the vote. Hennessy’s turf accounted for the boost. On Election Day, Andrzejewski won nine counties—his home county and other counties in the St. Louis suburbs where Hennessy and friends have reach.

Although it’s mostly uncoordinated, Andrew Breitbart is pursuing a similar mission through his new-media empire. He described himself in a 2007 interview as "Matt Drudge’s bitch," but he’s no intern. I met him at a Dupont Circle Starbucks in early 2009, where he couldn’t shake an entourage of well-wishers. The man is intense. Angry. My one-year-old has a longer attention span. But he’s so sharp you feel smarter just being in the same room with him. The best part about Breitbart is that he has a knack for making others—whether it’s the president, the press or others in power—sound like douches.

When Breitbart gestured to the print reporters at a Tea Party event in Nashville and said, "It’s not your business model that sucks; it’s you that sucks," he whipped Tea Party members into a frenzy unlike anything I’d ever seen. Breitbart is one of them, except smarter, better connected and angrier; compared with him, Palin is Las Vegas dinner theater. That’s why he is loved by Tea Partyers in a way Palin can never hope to be loved.

Enter James O’Keefe, Stan Dai and Joe Basel, who were arrested this past January for allegedly plotting to tamper with Democratic senator Mary Landrieu’s office in New Orleans. Their arrest touched a nerve in the Tea Party community. Put in context, they are more like Tyler Durden than G. Gordon Liddy. MSNBC called it "Watergate Jr." Basel called it one of his weaker pranks.

They don’t seem to mind getting busted and are truly willing to take one for the team. They travel the country, causing mayhem, giving speeches and crashing with wealthy benefactors. Saul Alinsky is their hero. They are as talented at destroying liberal institutions as they are at picking up cougars. I don’t mean 30-year-old mothers; I’m talking about tired 50-year-olds. With wrinkles.

The last time I caught up with Basel he was carrying a garbage bag full of dirty laundry through the airport because he hadn’t been home in months. When fans show up to take a picture with him, he pulls out the crumpled federal bond papers that give him permission to travel. Basel, Dai and O’Keefe don’t work for the Tea Party, and some of their projects may not win Tea Party candidates more votes. But because of shared interests they’ve won the hearts of Tea Party activists and conservative cougars everywhere.

I asked Basel why he does it. "I have a storied history of fucking with the power structure," he says. "I get a high from exposing fraudsters. I love pushing the envelope and exposing the truth."

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